Law & Order

EPA Finds Greenhouse Gases Pose Danger

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a finding that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and the environment. The EPA had reached a preliminary conclusion to this effect last spring and subsequently joined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to limit average CO2 emissions from cars and light trucks to 250 grams per mile and to increase average fuel efficiency from 25 to 35.5 miles per gallon by model year 2016.

The state of California agreed to adopt the same standard in exchange for being issued a waiver recognizing its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The automakers and SEMA support a national approach to tailpipe standards. The EPA and NHTSA are expected to finalize the CO2 tailpipe rule by April 2010.

The EPA was directed to consider whether greenhouse gases endanger health and safety under a 2007 Supreme Court ruling. The EPA decision is expected to increase pressure on Congress to enact legislation directing the agency on how to regulate emissions. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to require a 17% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 and 80% by 2050, based on 2005 levels. Legislation is pending in the U.S. Senate. The primary targets are large stationary source emitters, such as power plants, refineries and large factories.

The EPA has authority to regulate emissions if Congress fails to act. Beyond the auto tailpipe emissions rule, the agency has implemented a regulation requiring stationary-source facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of greenhouse gases (power plants, refineries, etc.) to submit annual tracking reports to the EPA. The EPA could eventually require these emitters to install the best available equipment on new and modified plants to curb emissions.

For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein.